Burkholderia cepacia produces an unusual range of polar lipids, which includes two forms each of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and ornithine amide lipid (OL), differing in the presence or absence of 2-hydroxy fatty acids. By using chemostat cultures in chemically defined media, variations in the lipid content and the proportions of individual lipids have been studied as a function of (a) growth temperature, (b) growth rate and (c) growth-limiting nutrient (carbon, magnesium, phosphorus or oxygen). Total cellular lipid in carbon-limited cultures was lowest at high growth temperatures and low growth rates. Increases in growth temperature over the range 25-40 degrees C led to increases in the proportions of molecular species of PE and OL containing 2-hydroxy acids, without changing the PE:OL ratio. Growth temperature did not alter the balance between neutral and acidic lipids, but the contribution of phosphatidylglycerol to the latter increased with rising growth temperature and growth rate. Pigmentation of cells and the presence of flagella were also temperature-dependent. Change in growth rate also affected the PE:OL ratio and the extent to which monoenoic acids were replaced by their cyclopropane derivatives. Whereas similar lipid profiles were found for carbon-, magnesium- and oxygen-limited cultures, ornithine amides were the only polar lipids detected in phosphorus-limited cells.